For Parents

December’s New Releases

December’s New Releases are all about series (some the final books), female superheroes, and lots of humor. So if you’re looking for a holiday gift to put a smile on the face of your favorite middle-grade reader, here are a few to choose from.

 

The Hive Queen (Wings of Fire, Book 12) by Tui T. Sutherland

Growing up in the hives, Cricket has always had a million questions. Why are trees forbidden, even in art? Why do her parents seem to hate her? And the biggest, most dangerous and secret question of all: why is Cricket immune to Queen Wasp’s powers? Whenever the queen takes control of all the HiveWings, speaking through their mouths and seeing through their eyes, Cricket has to hide, terrified of being discovered.

Now she’s hiding again, wanted for stealing the Book of Clearsight along with her new SilkWing friends, Blue and Swordtail, and the fierce LeafWing, Sundew. The fugitives need answers, and fast, in order to prevent a LeafWing attack. But Cricket has more questions than ever. How can she stay hidden and discover the queen’s deadliest secret? And if she does succeed—can a powerless dragonet really do anything to topple a regime and stop a war?

 

 

Children of Jubilee (Children of Exile, Book 3) by Margaret Peterson Haddix

Kiandra has to use her wits and tech-savvy ways to help rescue Edwy, Enu, and the others from the clutches of the Enforcers in the thrilling final novel of the Children of Exile series from New York Times bestselling author, Margaret Peterson Haddix. Since the Enforcers raided Refuge City, Rosi, Edwy, and the others are captured and forced to work as slave labor on an alien planet, digging up strange pearls. Weak and hungry, none of them are certain they will make it out of this alive.

But Edwy’s tech-savvy sister, Kiandra, has always been the one with all the answers, and so they turn to her. But Kiandra realizes that she can’t find her way out of this one on her own, and they all might need to rely on young Cana and her alien friend if they are going to survive.

 

 

The Terrible Two’s Last Laugh by Mac Barnett and Jory John, illus. Kevin Cornell

It’s Miles and Niles’s final year at Yawnee Valley Science and Letters Academy, and the Terrible Two have one goal: an epic prank. Something big, something brilliant, something that will leave a lasting legacy at their school. Which should be easy-peasy for these experts, especially now that their principal has gone from arch nemesis to pranking protégé.

But their smooth sailing gets downright bumpy when they find out that the new superintendent is none other than Bertrand Barkin, their principal’s father . . . and their sworn enemy. Now that Former Principal Barkin is Acting Superintendent Barkin, he has a first order of business: his long-promised revenge on the Terrible Two. This rollicking finale to the bestselling series by Mac Barnett and Jory John will settle once and for all who—between quick wits and powerful fists—will have the last laugh.

 

 

Zach King: Mirror Magic by Zach King

Since Zach finally recovered his magical powers, middle school has never been better—he’s teaming up with his best friend, Aaron, on their super-popular YouTube channel and talking to the nicest, smartest, prettiest girl in school, Rachel. But when Zach magically “passes through” a magical mirror, he lands in a world that is the exact opposite of everything he’s ever known.

Instead of finding himself at Horace Greeley Middle School, he’s at Horace Greeley MAGIC School. And in this world of opposites, everyone here has magic except him. Even worse, Zach is stuck in this world AND his alter-ego, the newly magical Jack, has passed in to Zach’s world and now living his life and getting into all sorts of trouble.

Fortunately, Zach can always count on his friends—even this mixed-up magical world’s versions of them! If he can just convince the guys about the truth of his world-jumping misadventure, Zach knows, they’ll work together to figure out how to put everyone back where they belong—before it’s too late.

 

 

Dog Diaries: A Middle School Story by James Patterson, illus. Richard Watson, contributor Steven Butler

Here’s MIDDLE SCHOOL for young readers—through the eyes of Rafe Khatchadorian’s misbehaving mutt, Junior! When rule-breaking Rafe has to train his new dog in obedience school, you know things are about to get really ruff! Oh boy, oh boy, oh boy! I’ve been waiting for ages to tell my story, and now it’s finally happening! Being Rafe’s dog isn’t always easy, but it is always EXCITING! I’ve got so much to tell you about:

How I protect the yard from birds, raccoons, squirrels, raccoons, mail carriers . . . and did I mention RACCOONS?

Sniffing pooch posteriors for the latest canine news.

And the terrifying monster hiding in the hall closet: the vacuum cleaner!

These were all the most paw-some parts of my doggie life—until the evil Mrs. Stricker threatened to send me back to the pound if I didn’t learn to behave. Now Rafe and I have to go to obedience school and win the trophy for Best Trained Dog . . . or else!

 

Marvel Fearless and Fantastic! Female Super Heroes Save the World by Sam Maggs, Ruth Amos, and Emma Grange

More than fifty incredible female Super Heroes from the Marvel Comics universe inspire girls and women of all ages to be powerful, passionate, and persistent.

From Captain Marvel and Wasp to Storm and Shuri, this beautiful book profiles dozens of aspirational female comic-book characters, all of whom use their intelligence, strength, kindness, and courage to help others and save the world. Fierce fan-favorites such as Gamora, Squirrel Girl, and Black Widow feature alongside lesser known faces from all corners of the Marvel comic-book universe. Young girls will discover modern, diverse heroes they can relate to and look up to, including America Chavez and Kamala Khan. Featuring a foreword by Marvel Comics writer Kelly Thompson, DK’s Fearless and Fantastic! is the ultimate tribute to Marvel’s most powerful women and girls, and a treasured gift for comic fans.

 

The Five Different Types of Readers: What Authors and Educators Can Learn From them

As an author, I’ve found that it’s useful to understand different types of readers, so I can better understand for whom I might be writing my stories.

I’m going to offers up some definitions I created based on the work of literacy scholar Kylene Beers, who breaks readers into five distinct groups: Avid Readers, Dormant Readers, Uncommitted Readers, Unmotivated Readers and Unskilled Readers.

The Avid Reader—This is someone like myself and my older son Jonah. My husband has been known to pull the cereal boxes off the table to get us to eat. But that doesn’t stop Jonah and me. Oh no. We’ll happily read the back of any brand of orange juice carton. We are even known to flip over the napkin holder because it has interesting warnings in both Spanish and in English that it would be a bad idea to eat the napkin holder.

The Dormant Reader—This is a reader who might enjoy reading but doesn’t have time. In the case of a child, she or he might be overscheduled or it’s not the highest thing on their priority list of things-to-do. They’ve heard a certain book is good and think it’s cool and do want to get there. Eventually.

The Uncommitted Reader—This person feels ambivalent towards reading. They believe that someday they’ll read but that day isn’t quite today.

Unmotivated Reader—This reader never reads for pleasure and finds reading a big, fat ugly chore.

Unskilled Reader—This reader doesn’t yet have the skills to decode text.

These definitions have helped me to be understand reluctant readers and to climb out of my own experience.
I was one of those voracious readers, so I didn’t understand why everyone else was not like me.

Take my younger sister growing up. She really would be practicing her lacrosse goalie skills or watch TV or hanging with oodles of friends. But rarely ever reading.

I didn’t get her. And she didn’t get me.

I was that shy kid always playing pretend or reading books about girls from another century.

While I never bothered to try to coax my sister to pick up one of my thick novels, my mother never gave up on my sister as a reader. She bought her the Choose Your Own Adventure books, as well as read aloud to her quite a bit. When my sister got into music of the Doors, she bought a book on the band.

Today, my sister is a librarian and probably reads more than me. My mother understand that the unmotivated reader can become the uncommitted reader who then can become the avid reader.

So the lesson here is just because a kid is currently in one category, it doesn’t mean they will stay there. And it doesn’t mean that an avid reader will always stay there either. For example, I found that when my kids were babies my reading really dropped. I was lucky to have enough time to read the back of the cereal box. When it comes to reading status, things can be fluid. This can be true for authors in terms of their intended readers as well.

My recent middle grade novels, Apple Pie Promises and Pumpkin Spice Secrets, obviously target reluctant readers. However, the first titles in my new chapter book series, Ellie May on Presidents’ Day and Ellie May on April Fools’ Day are hybrids. I tried to write it for both the young avid reader and the uncommitted one. But I’m ever hopeful that the unmotivated reader will also be charmed by Ellie May’s personality and antics. Since I don’t write beginning readers, I can’t hope to hook an unskilled reader, except as a read aloud. And if it that were the case, I would be very happy indeed.

What sort of reader were you as a kid? Where are you now? Teachers, do you see a huge spread in your classrooms. And authors, whom do you write for?

Hillary Homzie is the author of the forthcoming Ellie May chapter book series (Charlesbridge, Dec 18, 2018), as well as Apple Pie Promises (Sky Pony/Swirl, October 2018), Pumpkin Spice Secrets (Sky Pony/Swirl, October 2017), Queen of Likes (Simon & Schuster MIX 2016), The Hot List (Simon & Schuster MIX 2011) and Things Are Gonna Be Ugly (Simon & Schuster, 2009) as well as the Alien Clones From Outer Space (Simon & Schuster Aladdin 2002) chapter book series. She can be found at hillaryhomzie.com and on her Facebook page as well as on Twitter.

Celebrating Art Museums in Books

Did you know that today is National Go to an Art Museum Day—and more than 30,000 museums around the world are participating by holding special activities and offering discounts? No? Well then, it’s probably too late to call in sick or play hooky. But you can still celebrate vicariously by going to your library, bookstore, or favorite online site to pick up a great book about art museums. Here are a few suggestions:

 

From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L. Konigsburg

Okay, you had to know I’d include this classic novel if you’re a fan of this blog. In E.L. Konigsberg’s 1968 Newbery winner, Claudia Kincaid decides to run away with her little brother to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. After spending their days wandering around the museum and their nights hiding in odd exhibits, the two become involved in solving a museum mystery concerning an angel statue, thought to be carved by Michelangelo himself. After some sleuthing, they track down Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, the woman who sold the statue to the museum. Will she help them solve the mystery? You’ll have to read the book to find out.

 

Framed by James Ponti

Florian is twelve years old and has just moved to Washington. He’s learning his way around using TOAST, which stands for the Theory of All Small Things. It’s a technique he invented to solve life’s little mysteries such as: where to sit on the first day of school or which Chinese restaurant has the best egg rolls. But when he attempts to teach the method to his new friend Margaret, they uncover a mystery at the National Gallery of Art that involves the theft of three paintings. Will Florian’s skills help the FBI solve the crime and help him escape from the clutches of a dangerous crime syndicate?

 

The Art of the Swap by Kristine Asselin and Jen Malone

Hannah Jordan lives in a museum…well, sort of. She is the daughter of the caretaker for mansion-turned-museum The Elms in Newport, Rhode Island. Hannah is captivated by stories of The Elms’s original occupants, especially Maggie Dunlap, the tween heiress who was the subject of a painting that went missing during a legendary art heist in 1905. When a mysterious mirror allows Hannah and Maggie to switch places in time, suddenly Hannah is racing to stop the heist from happening, while Maggie gets an introduction to iPhones, soccer, and freedoms like exploring without supervision. Not to mention the best invention of all: sweatpants (so long, corsets!). As the hours tick away toward the art heist, something’s not adding up. Can the girls work together against time—and across it—to set things right? Or will their temporary swap become a permanent trade?

 

Moxie and the Art of Rule Breaking by Erin Dionne

Moxie Fleece knows the rules and follows them—that is, until the day she opens her front door to a mysterious stranger. Suddenly Moxie is involved in Boston’s biggest unsolved mystery: The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum art heist. Moxie has two weeks to find the art, otherwise she and the people she loves will be in big-time danger. Her tools? Her best friend, Ollie, a geocaching addict who loves to find stuff; her Alzheimer’s suffering grandfather, Grumps, who knows lots more than he lets on; and a geometry proof that she sets up to sort out the clues. It’s a race against the clock through downtown Boston as Moxie and Ollie break every rule she’s ever lived by to find the art and save her family.

 

The Metropolitans by Carol Goodman

The day Japan bombs Pearl Harbor, four thirteen-year-olds converge at the Metropolitan Museum of Art where an eccentric curator is seeking four brave souls to track down the hidden pages of the Kelmsbury Manuscript, an ancient book of Arthurian legends that lies scattered within the museum’s collection, and that holds the key to preventing a second attack on American soil. When Madge, Joe, Kiku, and Walt agree to help, they have no idea that the Kelmsbury is already working its magic on them. They begin to develop extraordinary powers and experience the feelings of King Arthur, Queen Guinevere, Morgan le Fay, and Lancelot: courage, friendship, love…and betrayal. Are they playing out a legend that’s already been lived, over and over, across the ages? Or can the Metropolitans forge their own story?

 

The Sixty-Eight Rooms by Marianne Malone

Almost everybody who has grown up in Chicago knows about the Thorne Rooms. Housed deep inside the Chicago Art Institute, they are a collection of sixty-eight exquisitely crafted miniature rooms. Each room is set in a different historic period, and every detail is perfect. Some might even say, the rooms are magic. But what if on a field trip, you discovered a key that allowed you to shrink so that you could sneak inside and explore the secrets of the rooms? What if you discovered that others had done so before you? And that someone had left something important behind? Eleven-year-olds Jack and Ruthie are about to find out!

 

Behind the Museum Door: Poems to Celebrate the Wonders of Museums by Lee Bennett Hopkins, illus. by Stacey Dressen-McQueen

Fourteen poems on the many dazzling collections featured in museums. The art, artifacts, and anthropological treasures found in museum collections are coupled with stunning poetry by acclaimed writers Lee Bennett Hopkins, Jane Yolen, Myra Cohn Livingston, Rebecca Kai Dotlich, and many more. The lively verse captures the wonder and amazement of the exhibition experience, from mummies to medieval relics, and from fine art to fossils.